The walk from the ward to the exit feels like forever, and my side is throbbing. I flop down onto a chair at the reception waiting area, just inside the hospital entrance. I’ll sit here for a while and wait until the rain stops, or until they tell me to move on.

My heart is racing as I grip my discharge form. I’m stressing because everything is out of my control, but there’s still one thing I can do to calm myself. It comforts me when it feels as if the world is pushing down on me too hard. I get out my notebook from my backpack.

Book balanced on my knees, I clutch the pencil, a gift from Kitty – a blunt stub now – and write.

My life wasn’t always like this. I had a family once: mother, father and kid sister. They all died in the fire that burnt down our house almost five years ago.

I lived with my father’s only sibling, Aunt Gladys, her husband and five kids for a few months. Ma was an only child, and my grandparents died before I was born.

I’d been studying media and advertising, but with no funds – my parents had no insurance or life policies – and no-one to pay my fees, I dropped out.

Despite all my efforts, going out daily, job-hunting, baby-sitting when Aunt Gladys and Uncle Fred went out, she’d remind me every day, several times, that I wasn’t welcome.

“You know, Ollie, food is expensive these days jong. … Yoh, you’re eating me bangkrot … You won’t die if you go without food for one day.”

I’d overheard Aunt Gladys talking to Uncle Fred, after I’d asked her for taxi fare to go on an interview. “You know Fred, I wonder if he really goes out looking for a job? These laaities today, they just want, want, want. Ollie was gespoil man.”

Spoiled? All her kids have the latest cellphones, even the 10-year-old. I don’t even have a phone. Never did.

“You want fancy luxuries, my boy,” Ma had said, “you work and buy it for yourself.”

I was tired of the abuse; the comments, the smallest portion of food, being worked like a slave, accused of stealing misplaced money, being told I was a burden. The worst was when she accused me of using drugs because my eyes were always red and I was moody. That might be true. I cried in private and silence about losing everyone and everything that meant something to me.

I was gatvol of Aunt Gladys.

I packed my backpack and got out of there the next day while they were at work, taking only the few items of clothing they bought me, and some packaged foods I could easily open. I’ll find a job and rent a cheap room, I thought. Anything will be better than this hell hole.

I didn’t look back and they didn’t come looking for me.


Tell us: Was Ollie foolish to leave his Aunt’s place, even though she was so horrible to him?